By Trina Bianchi, Contributor
As we have recently discovered with the debate in Washington, “infrastructure” is one of those words that means a million different things to a million different people. In the context of our recent community Resilience survey, infrastructure was defined as encompassing roads and transportation, emergency shelter capacity and access, cell and broadband access, stormwater and waste water management. Quite the wide array of subjects!
And all of that is now up for discussion: Physical Infrastructure, Tuesday, June 15, at 7:00 p.m. at. The link can also be found on the Charlotte Library website. Everyone is welcome to join to talk, discuss or simply listen. We hope you will take the time to add your voice to the conversation!
Our survey respondents generally had positive perceptions about roads and transportation, cell and broadband service, and storm water and waste management. However, most interesting was the very high proportion of respondents who “weren’t sure” or “had no opinion” on many of the topics. This was especially true in the case of “emergency shelter” capacity where 38% replied were unsure how to respond. This suggests that perhaps we need to do a better job of informing our community about these aspects of our infrastructure in Charlotte. This writer would also question whether or not Charlotte truly does have good cell service.
So, if you have questions around some of these areas, mark your calendar and join us on June 15. You can do it from the comfort of your couch or deck with your beverage of choice! The survey, including all the questions, description and responses for this section, is in the included table. Bring your questions, observations and concerns. It should be a lively discussion.
The community discussion on the Basic Needs and Services held on May 18 was well attended, and a lot of thought-provoking information was forthcoming. Hosted by Cindi Robinson, Margaret Woodruff and Mike Yantachka, it was noted that the survey showed that many people weren’t sure around our resilience in terms of energy and public safety, indicating perhaps the need for more effective communication in these areas about what resources were available in Charlotte.
Renewable energy was a definite focus of this discussion with observations that none of our town buildings are equipped with solar, prompting the question of whether Charlotte, as a town, was committed to renewable energy. Suggestions for improvement around energy resilience might include town-owned solar and off-site solar that could be installed on town land, offering residents another option for renewable energy at their own homes. Charlotte does have an Energy Committee. The committee currently has two openings and invites interested individuals to consider inquiring about joining. The group has work that can be done but needs additional members to make it happen.
The Energy Committee is working diligently on a website for Charlotte that will soon be live and will provide information around incentives and available programs for residents to access to learn how each of us can become more energy resilient and also reduce our demand for energy. Obviously, each of us reducing our demand on the energy system helps not only our own individual resilience—and power bill—but also helps us as a community.
The discussion then moved to the subject of housing. What was voiced was how we, as a community, have lost some of the diversity that was here in past decades and questioned whether or not we are losing residents due to lack of affordable housing. This brought forth the question about whether or not Charlotte is truly committed to creating a diverse community and, if so, how do we make housing more affordable? One suggestion was if we truly want to create a town with socio-economic diversity, less expensive land needs to be made available to develop, which could be done by reducing land requirements in specific areas in towns, perhaps in village centers, for housing. The results of the recent vote to change the Land Regulations in East Charlotte would indicate that perhaps we, as residents, are not committed to trying to increase the diversity in our town. Perhaps a question for all of us to ponder is: What kind of town do we want to live in and what are each of us, as individuals, willing to accept to make that happen?
Public safety and emergency response were discussed next, and the question posed was what would happen in Charlotte if we experienced a touch-down tornado like Middlebury did earlier this year. Chris Davis explained that the town does have emergency management plans for various emergencies, and those plans are reviewed and updated regularly. What Chris explained—and I think we all have come to realize—is that storms today are not like storms of yesteryear. They are more frequent and can be more destructive. We need to be prepared for this “new normal.” While there is a book outlining procedures and protocols for all the various emergencies, the goal is to have the book available so that anyone could access it in an emergency. Chris admitted that housing or shelter in an emergency is currently a challenge with no easy answer, which is something that does need to be addressed. One suggestion was that if the town had solar with battery backup on the town buildings, that might be a start to a solution.
Water quality was next on the list. Lively discussion ensued around the idiosyncratic quality of the water in our town—from sulphur, to iron, to E. coli issues combined with quantity and depths of wells and the lack of availability of good quality drinking water for people without access to same in their own homes. In years long past, CCS was a source, with an outside spigot, of good quality drinking water for folks, but that availability was eliminated years ago for various reasons. It was concluded that this was yet another issue that needs to be addressed in our town.
These community conversations hosted by the Charlotte Community Partners are designed to give all of our residents the opportunity to voice their concerns, opinions and ideas on the various subjects addressed in the Resilience Survey. This group has met twice a month since last April and includes representatives from CCS, CCS PTO, Senior Center, Transition Town Charlotte, Seed Library, CVFRS, the Charlotte Grange and others. With a mind toward learning if people thought our town was resilient and beginning the discussion of how to become more resilient if necessary, the group partnered with Vermont-based Community Resilience Organizations, which has run these assessments throughout the state. It’s now time to discuss the results.
In the interim, stay safe, stay well and we encourage you to get vaccinated! If you need assistance in getting the vaccine, VaxHelp05445, is here to help. Access by email or by phone at (802) 425-3864 (Charlotte Library). With more and more people vaccinated, we can start to enjoy a real Vermont summer, seeing friends and family! 15,000 more Vermonters needed to hit the 80% Governor Scott is looking for to open Vermont—let’s do this!